Main article: Culture of the United Kingdom
The culture of the United Kingdom has been influenced by many factors including the nation's island status and its history as a western liberal democracy, major power, and a political union of four countries, with each preserving elements of distinctive traditions, customs and symbolism. As a result of the British Empire, British influencecan be observed in the language, culture and legal systems of many of its former colonies, including Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the United States.
Main article: Cinema of the United Kingdom
The United Kingdom has had a considerable influence on the history of the cinema. The British directors Alfred Hitchcock and David Lean are among themost critically acclaimed of all-time, with other important directors including Charlie Chaplin, Michael Powell, Carol Reed and Ridley Scott. Many British actors have achieved international fame and critical success, including Julie Andrews, Richard Burton, Michael Caine, Charlie Chaplin, Sean Connery, Vivien Leigh, David Niven, Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and KateWinslet. Some of the most commercially successful films of all time have been produced in the United Kingdom, including the two highest-grossing film franchises (Harry Potter and James Bond). Ealing Studios has a claim to being the oldest continuously working film studio in the world.
Despite a history of important and successfulproductions, the industry has often been characterised by a debate about its identity and the level of American and European influence. Many British films are co-productions with American producers, often using both British and American actors, and British actors feature regularly in Hollywood films. Many successful Hollywood films have been based on British people, stories or events, including Titanic, TheLord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean, and British influence can be seen in the 'English Cycle' of Disney animated films, including Alice in Wonderland, Robin Hood and One Hundred and One Dalmatians.
In 2009 British films grossed around $2 billion worldwide and achieved a market share of around 7% globally and 17% in the United Kingdom. UK box-office takings totalled£944 million in 2009, with around 173 million admissions. The British Film Institute has produced a poll ranking what they consider to be the 100 greatest British films of all time, the BFI Top 100 British films.
Main article: British literature
The Chandos portrait, believed to depict William Shakespeare
'British literature' refers to literature associated with theUnited Kingdom, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands as well as to literature from England, Wales and Scotland prior to the formation of the United Kingdom. Most British literature is in the English language. The UK publishes some 206,000 books each year, making it the largest publisher of books in the world.
The English playwright and poet William Shakespeare is widely regarded as thegreatest dramatist of all time. Shakespeare's contemporaries Christopher Marlowe and Ben Jonson added depth. More recently the playwrights Alan Ayckbourn, Harold Pinter, Michael Frayn, Tom Stoppard and David Edgar have combined elements of surrealism, realism and radicalism.
Notable pre-modern and early-modern English writers include Geoffrey Chaucer (14th century), Thomas Malory (15thcentury), Sir Thomas More (16th century), and John Milton (17th century). In the 18th century Daniel Defoe (author of Robinson Crusoe) and Samuel Richardson were pioneers of the modern novel. In the 19th century there followed further innovation by Jane Austen, the gothic novelist Mary Shelley, children's writer Lewis Carroll, the Brontë sisters, the social campaigner Charles Dickens, the...